In just her second season in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Collete Davis has already proven to be one of the most exciting characters and fiercest drivers in the series.
Currently running in the GRC Lites division for River Racing, the 22-year old spent her 2015 rookie campaign turning heads as she became the first woman to lead laps in series history.
Her return to Daytona International Speedway for a second straight year marks a homecoming of sorts as she enrolled at nearby Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at age 16, majoring in mechanical engineering.
We sat down with Davis for a Q&A as she looks to rewrite the history books once again with her first career Red Bull Global Rallycross victory.
Daytona International Speedway: How did you first become interested in cars? How did you get started in racing and at what point did you decide that it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
Collete Davis: I first became interested in cars when I was around 12 when I started taking apart engines. I was always curious on how things worked and took apart everything from remotes to lawn mower engines, simply because I wanted to learn more! I found racing around 15 when I heard of a sport for go kart racing. I was naturally very competitive and played just about every sport growing up, and I discovered racing to be the ultimate sport for me...it was competition as well as engineering and adrenaline all in one! When I found racing I immediately fell in love.
DIS: You majored in mechanical engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, while pursuing a professional career in motorsports. How did you balance the demands associated with being a full-time student with a professional racing career?
CD: The main reason I was going to school for engineering was for racing. It was to learn as much as I could outside of the race car, so I can maximize every time I get the chance to be inside one. I always tried to relate my school work back to racing, for final projects and such. It was a tough balance at times, as engineering isn't an easy major but I made it work and even got ERAU involved in my racing! They were my first corporate partner when I was 16 years old. We put together an awesome program where students from the school were able to get hands on engineering experience and knowledge from my racing and race team at the time. I also represented ERAU as a spokesperson to middle school girls across Florida with ERAU promoting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. So although it might have been a lot of work, I was fortunate to be doing what I loved.
DIS: What have been some of the major challenges you’ve faced and biggest lessons you’ve learned from managing your career from the start?
CD: The biggest lesson was that you will hear a million "no's", but that one "yes" makes it all worth it. Racing is a sport that demands having a tough skin, both on the track and in business. You really need to be committed and in it for the long haul to be successful.
DIS: You enrolled in college at 16 and became the first woman in Red Bull GRC history to lead laps. It certainly seems like you don’t mind a trailblazer. Do you see yourself that way?
CD: If I can pave the way for other women and girls to be inspired to go after their own dreams by watching me pursue my own, I'm all for that.
DIS: Do you remember seeing Daytona International Speedway for the first time? What was your first race at DAYTONA and what was that experience like?
CD: I saw the Speedway for the first time in 2010 when I was visiting Daytona to check out Embry-Riddle before attending. I went to a NASCAR race at that time, and realized Daytona had to be my new home for college! My first race at the Speedway was in 2011, and I raced a Formula 500 race car in an SCCA race.
DIS: Overall, what does racing at DAYTONA – a home track for you in a sense – mean to you?
CD: It's such an iconic track, and my racing career really was seeded here in Daytona! It means a lot to me to be able to race here and at such a remarkable venue.
DIS: What are some of your professional goals? What do you hope to accomplish this year? Where do you hope to see your racing career in five years?
CD: My professional goals are to race, win in whatever I drive and help my partners be successful at the same time. Goals this year are to start getting on the podium and in the position to fight for the win. I would love to be racing and winning in Supercars in 5 years! .. Much sooner than that too !
DIS: It seems like you’re comfortable racing anything. Is there any type of race car that you haven’t driven yet that you’d like to get behind the wheel of?
CD: A Global Rallycross Supercar this year!
DIS: What advice would you give to young girls that are interested in racing, but don’t have a particularly traditional path or connection into the industry?
CD: I would say if your heart is set on it, and you know you've found your passion, then pursue it! You have to be in it for the long haul and work your butt off, but the tenacious ones will always find a way.
Come out to experience the exciting action for yourself from June 17-19. Meet Collete and other drivers from the Supercar and Lites divisions at an autograph session on Saturday, June 18 at 4:30pm.
DIS: For those race fans unfamiliar with Red Bull GRC, why should they come out and watch? What makes the series unique?
CD: Everyone should come out because this is some of the best racing on the planet. With all Supercars fighting wheel to wheel over pavement, dirt, and a massive jump, it's the most intense, action-packed racing out there! It will be one heck of a show.
Tickets and more information are available online or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.